Director: James Bobin
Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Rated: PG (For fantasy action/peril and some language)
Disney's “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is filled with wall-to-wall visual splendor yet I didn't find much ‘wonder' in my trip to Wonderland this time around. Granted, when I think back to the first film I wasn't exactly blown away by it either. I lamented on the fact that while the film wasn't much of a joyous experience, it was at the very least a competent movie (which isn't something you can usually say when dealing with an adaptation of these books). That film, though, was directed by Tim Burton, a man who made making visually pleasing films in his sleep. This time around Burton has stepped down to merely being a producer and the new director is James Bobin, whose previous two films were “The Muppets” and “The Muppets: Most Wanted.” You'd think with a resume like that, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” would be a bit more fun to watch…and yet, the whole experience becomes more of a headache than a good time.
Granted, Wonderland IS a lot more sunny and colorful this time around! The plight of the characters isn't as dreary as it was last time. One of the problems I had watching this though was the fact that a lot was at stake for something that arguably isn't super important. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) comes back to Wonderland after some bad news in her world threatens to strand her on land (you may recall the last film ended with her as a sea captain). When she returns to the world that just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, she finds out that Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is sitting around his house, depressed because he found the first hat he made in a patch of grass, and is now convinced his family is alive. Feeling that she needs to cheer her friend up, Alice visits Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) to find out how she can change the past and save the Hatter's family from being killed in the first place.
Time tells her that you can't change the past and to attempt to do so could destroy the world itself. So what does she do? Why, she steels the key to space and time and threatens all of existence anyway. All so that the Mad Hatter won't be so sad. Part of me wonders why anyone in this crazy world would think that putting the safety of everyone else didn't matter so long as the 1% didn't have hurt feelings. We practice this in the real world, so shouldn't it be the opposite in Wonderland (ho ho)? Alright, political jokes that won't age well aside, this really isn't a situation that justifies all this hassle to the main characters (and we have therapy for these reasons). In fact, all this is so pointless, that even if the film were charming I'm not sure how much it would help the final product.
Mainly because most of the scenarios lack any sort of tension since they take place in the past and we know where they will lead. We are informed upfront there is no changing the past, and that is exactly what happens every time. We see past situations, nothing changes, and we move onto the next one. The tension of what could happen is never there and the only time that's being wasted is ours. Time himself is a great new character and Cohen steals every scene he's in, but the already established characters are either passive players in the story or just hang out in the background. It speaks volumes that out of all the scenes involving time travel, betrayals, and a monster killing a family, the best scene in this movie involves Time and Mad Hatter playing a taunting game with twisted words. Sure, it's a nonsensical scene, but it comes the closest to capturing the spirit of the novel and turning it into a memorable movie moment.
Otherwise, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is one of the prettiest, most expensive bores you're likely to see in theaters this year. It is an assault on the senses with overbearing visuals and strange images abound, few of which ever bring joy or fun to the experience. Minutes after the movie was over I was sort of amazed that I could barely remember anything that happened. How does this happen? Really, I want to know, because the lack of an impression a movie of this caliber leaves on the viewer is truly mind blowing. This is a perfect example that no matter how much money you throw at a project, it doesn't matter if the film doesn't have a solid script and a lot of heart behind it.
Parents, without Tim Burton directing this sequel is less scary looking as well as less violent. Only a few action sequences will bother a very young crowd. Recommended for ages 6 and up.